June 16th, 2008 15:58 EST
Bush more Catholic than Kennedy
VATICAN CITY - President Bush considers joining the Roman Catholic Church after the end of his second term, report Italian newspapers.
Still officially a member of the Methodist Church, President Bush has visited the Vatican City more often than any of his predecessors-- including John F. Kennedy, the only Catholic president of the United States. Also last week, during his valedictory visit to Europe, Bush made sure to squeeze a short conference with the pope into his tight schedule.
The European media has already compared Pope Benedict XVI and President Bush to another odd couple from the 1980s: Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. This time, however, it is not a totalitarian system that has united two such different personalities. Instead, experts say, both leaders have found a mutual enemy in moral relativism of the western civilization.
When it comes to homosexual marriages, abortion and stem cell research, President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI represent the same position. "On ethical matters he has always had a line that is practically identical to that of the Vatican," an Italian newspaper cited a reliable source close to the pope`s circle. "He is the most Catholic-minded president since Kennedy," the source said.
More conservative than European countries, America becomes a natural ally of the Vatican. "The United States works with the Holy See on a huge number of issues: trafficking, aid, development," says George Weigel, author of the award-winning biography of the late Pope John Paul II. Weigel reminds that during his first term, President Bush met with the Polish pontiff three times.
Very few politicians, even from traditionally Catholic nations, have established better rapport with the present pope than Bush. "From the unprecedented nature of this visit, there is no doubt that these two men have developed a deep personal friendship, in addition to and apart from their common views on so many of the great issues of the day," said the US ambassador to the Holy See.
Where the two leaders differ is with regards to Iraq. The Vatican has opposed the invasion of Iraq since such a possibility was first mentioned by the Bush Administration in early 2002. Despite his developing illness, Pope John Paul II inexhaustibly met with Iraqi and American envoys and called for an immediate cease-fire when US forces were at the doorstep of Baghdad.
Even then, the two countries stayed close. "The idea that all this stopped because of different prudential judgments about what to do about Saddam Hussein is just wrong," said Weigel. President Bush remained highly influenced by the Vatican, even after the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the subsequent election of German Cardinal Ratzinger for the new head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The British Daily Telegraph reminds that even before moving to the White House, George W. Bush had expressed sympathy for the Catholic thought. It was on his request that his personal adviser Karl Rove organized a meeting with Catholic scholars who educated the president-elect in the basics of the Catholic teaching.
Also, those close to the president confirm that he feels strongly attached to the Catholic Church. Fr. George William Rutler from New York, who has talked with Bush on many occasions, told the Washington Times that the president "[was] not unaware of how evangelism, by comparison with Catholicism, may seem more limited both theologically and historically."
The president`s brother and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has already converted to Catholicism. Reportedly, when Florida produced no clear winner in the 2000 presidential election and votes were being counted and recounted all over again, Jeb Bush prayed at the holy icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.
If George W. Bush became Catholic, he would join the church of his personal friend and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Blair, a long-time Anglican, announced his conversion last December although he had informed Pope Benedict XVI about his plans shortly after stepping down from office in June 2007. The British welcomed the news with mixed feelings.
The picture of President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI-- both in excellent spirits-- walking in the Vatican gardens last Friday was printed in most European newspapers. Here were two individuals different in their personal experiences and histories but united in their perception of the contemporary world.
Asked by the Washington Post whether Bush could become Catholic, former US Senator Rick Santorum said: "I don`t think there`s any question about it. He`s certainly more Catholic than Kennedy."
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